Hearings at the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme will end this week, and its report is due at the end of June.
Judging from her reaction to the testimony of some of the witnesses, there is little doubt that Commissioner Catherine Holmes will find much about the scheme and its authors to criticise.
However, the end of June is some time away, and there’s no reason not to make some immediate unofficial findings.
For example, there has been an epidemic of forgetfulness among many of the senior public servants questioned by the Commission. This is the Alan Bond Defence, made famous by that corporate criminal when brought to book: ‘I can’t recall’.
People who are paid salaries of a quarter of a million dollars or more for their organisational abilities find they cannot remember crucial dates and meetings. Moreover, they suffer from selective blindness as well: ‘I didn’t see that email’.
Another common response to the Commission has been the Nuremberg Defence, first employed by Nazi war criminals: ‘I was just following orders.’ Public servants using this dodgy defence could at least argue that those among them who did question Robodebt were swiftly sidelined or sacked.
Amazingly, a resort to the Nuremberg Defence was made by the minister in charge of the scheme, Stuart Robert himself, who, in a sane universe rather than the pitiless inferno created by the Coalition, would have been the one giving the orders. Instead, he claimed that he was the victim of cabinet rules, which forced him to tell lies about Robodebt against his better judgment.
Indeed, Robert was the star turn of the hearings, and an example of the Peter Principle in action: ambitious people will rise until their incompetence is no longer in doubt.
A prolific, lying, grub
This close friend of Scott Morrison (‘Brother Stuwie’ in their cultish terminology) is more than just incompetent, he is what old-school journos call a ‘grub’, that is, a politician who uses his position to enrich himself.
From his first conflict of interest over an unofficial trip to China that saw him sacked from Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet, to one of his own companies receiving millions of dollars in government contracts (his father unknowingly listed as a director), to his charging taxpayers $2,000 a month for home internet, Robert has debauched every parliamentary standard.
He is also a prolific liar, if not quite in the Morrison league. He lied about slush funding local government candidates in Queensland, he lied off the top of his head and invented a cyber attack when the MyGov website went down after thousands of people tried to log on during the covid epidemic, he has dodged and weaved around his blind trust and his links with strange business partners, including a money launderer, a convicted rapist and a lobbyist, to rank them in ascending order of turpitude.
Commissioner Holmes caught Robert’s lie about ministerial responsibility. His duty to cabinet, he insisted, meant he had to defend things he might not agree with. But he knew Robodebt was illegal when he enthusiastically boosted it to the media and invented spurious statistics to justify the scheme. This is not holding an opinion that differed from his colleagues and keeping quiet about it, this is lying about a factual matter.
Commissioner Holmes will also have to make a judgment of truthfulness between Robert and Renee Leon, a former human services secretary.
When Robodebt was discovered to be unlawful, Ms Leon advised the minister that the department should apologise to customers, admit the error and inform the public of steps to correct it. She said that Robert replied, ‘We absolutely will not be doing that. We will double down.’ Robert denies this and asserts he made strenuous efforts to clarify the legal issue.
Stuart Robert was one of the last ministers to appear at the hearings, and arguably the one who made the worst job of defending the indefensible. But the others warrant similar revulsion: Morrison himself, Malcolm Turnbull, Christian Porter and Alan Tudge – particularly Tudge, whose office appears to have been behind the leak of the personal files of Robodebt victims to the Murdoch hyenas.
It was all about saving the government money, with the bonus of punishing the poor and unemployed, who the Coalition believes could be rich and working if they so chose.
As to whether any lessons have been learned from this appalling episode: well, last week Peter Dutton swore that in office he would repeal Labor’s legislation reducing the tax breaks for people who hold superannuation funds in excess of three million dollars. No Robodebt severity for them.
Whatever the findings of the June report may be, owing to a lack of applicable law they are unlikely to include any actual sanctions of the perpetrators of this vicious scheme, which forced numerous vulnerable people to suffer a terrible wrong, and which cost some of them their very lives.
The greatest ever act of evil visited upon the Australian people – RoboDebt.
Over 400,00 innocent Australians were willfully terrorised by the Turnbull / Morrison regime – I call it state sponsored terrorism.
Those 400,000 innocent Australians, whose only ‘crime’ was being social security recipients and thus the usual easy target of the Liberals.
The suicides, the family distress, marriage breakdowns, none of it can ever be made good.
Evil needs to be punished, the Courts need to prep themselves for busy times ahead.
As we both know Joachim, nobody will be held to account. Nobody will care. Kicking the poor and helpless is THE Australian sport ever since the first fleet arrived in chains, routinely flogged for disrespecting their ‘betters’ and nobody cares.
RoboDebt is a vicious fascist construction but far from the worst evil perpetrated by our ‘government’, there was the Boer War, The WW1, WW2, Vietnam invasion, Iraq invasion and Afghanistan all of these were engineered with lies and deception (stock in trade for our pollies ).
In terms of the gut-wrenching perversity, it is certainly up there but what have the good ‘ol public’s reaction been ?
Nothing !….as it has been to the Industry set up at the same time the “Job Providers Network ” who provide no jobs, and their sole purpose is to harass and torture the five percent of workers that government have decided are surplus to requirements and serve to put a check on attaining fair wages.
Meanwhile in an astoundingly overpopulated planet, this country with planned unemployment, unavailable housing and levels of poverty not seen for two centuries, our wise and generous over-lords continue to increase rates of immigration to provide slave labour, even reintroducing Black-Birding from the pacific.
Who will be held accountable ? NOBODY ! G”)
Absolutely unforgivable.. 💯 how this eventuated
Needs to be disclosed.. not good ..
Nor was the mistreatment and bullying
Of the late Kimberley Kitching ..whom a labor aid who worked for a labor minister openly admitted
She was bullied.. yet all women must be believed
Right ? Not according to our Prime Minister..
Or our ABC or ran absolutely dead on the complaint.. “if it were not for double standards The left would have no standards at all”..hypocrites
Watch this space ..
‘greatest ever act of evil visited upon the Australian people’? You have bothered to read about the things the British Empire did to our ancestors? What do you think the Irish Rebellion, Rum Rebellion, Vinegar Hill, and Eureka Stockade were about? Not to mention the countless mass murders perpetrated by Aboriginal tribes. RoboDebt is the kind of thing you get with socialism, but it’s a long way from ‘The greatest ever act of evil’. The forced conscription of young men into the meat grinders of Europe and Asia caused vastly more ‘suicides, the family distress, marriage breakdowns’. Your Aboriginal fairytale books have blinded you to what it took for us to build one of the freest, safest, wealthiest countries in the world. The sacrifices made are shocking. RoboDebt and its like are preface. The majority are selling out our nation. You ain’t seen nothing yet.